curly hair to pixie cut

Over the years I've had my fair share of bad haircuts.  My hair is quite thick and coarse and I think that's what always threw stylists for a loop.  There was a lot more body than they were expecting and my hair really needs A LOT of moisture.  Until a few years ago I never really understood how my hair behaved, so that wasn't helpful either.  Because of the past bad haircuts I've been cutting my hair myself for the past two years.

About a month ago I finally caved in and got a real haircut. I had done a pretty good job on my own, but I knew there were uneven places and I was frustrated my hair wasn't curling very well on its own.  I thought about just getting a trim and some layers, but I've always wanted to try a super short style, and since I had already gone through the work of finding a good stylist, I decided to go for it.

I ended up seeing Shannon at Selah Hair Design.  I e-mailed her before booking an appointment and described the characteristics of my hair and the kind of style I wanted.  She loved all of the information I gave her and we talked even more at the appointment about my hair and how to cut it.  She understood exactly what I wanted and even took into account how I usually style my hair, which I really loved because I feel like some stylists try to impose their methods on your hair and don't listen to how you already take care of it.  I showed her pictures (here and here) and we agreed the style would work well with my hair.

I loved working on my hair with Shannon and I will definitely be going back next time I need a haircut.  The only downside is that my hair hasn't been curling as much as I thought it would after the haircut.  The second set of pictures shows my hair the day after I got it cut and that's pretty much the curliest it's been since then.  What little curl and wave I was able to achieve became completely flat over night and there was no reviving it the next day.  I think my curl pattern just isn't tight enough for it to really curl at this length.  It's a lot easier to get it to lay flat and straight than be curly.

I knew that short hair styles require a lot of upkeep to maintain the style and I also knew I wouldn't be able to do that because I can't afford to get a haircut every month.  In the past I've noticed that my hair tends to grown pretty quickly, but I was really surprised when I started comparing the photos above.  I wouldn't say that it has grown a full inch in just one month, but maybe half an inch or somewhere in between?  It'll probably grow into a mullet at some point and then I'll either have to trim it myself or go in for another hair cut just to clean things up while it continues to grow out.

My husband keeps asking me if my curls are gone for forever.  I don't think they are.  I think my hair is just too short right now.  I'm sure they'll show up again may be in another month or two.  And if they don't then I'll just have a new hairstyle to play with!


sew lovely: flowy summer dress

This blog post has taken longer to put together than I thought it would.  After the busyness of getting a new camera and then right away shooting an art tour and a wedding, I finally have time to share this lovely dress with y'all.  Enjoy!

For my spring break project this year I decided to make a dress out of a soft knit bed sheet I bought at the thrift store.  The material ended up being very frustrating but I stuck with it.  This is the first sewing project in a long time where I am completely happy with how it turned out.  I feel like I learned a lot and I am so proud of this dress!

Here is my lovely dress form Penelope modeling it for me.

I hunted around for a knit dress tutorial to give me an idea of how the material would behave.  I had never sewn with knit material before so this was new territory for me and part of why it turned into a frustrating project.  I ended up using this dress for inspiration and returned to my favorite circle skirt tutorial for this project as well because I really love full swishy skirts.  I really wanted to add these sleeves to my dress but it didn't look quite right.  I'll save them for a future dress project.

For the bodice I traced a tank top, like the dress tutorial said to, but I didn't flare out for the skirt since I was going to make my skirt out of a separate piece of fabric.  I cut the bodice just a little bit longer than where my waist would be so that I would have a seam allowance for sewing on the skirt.  I did a double layer of fabric for the front and back of the bodice so the color of my bra wouldn't show through the thin fabric.  I oopsed and cut the bodice pieces a little too skinny, so then I cut little panels and sewed them to the edges so the bodice wouldn't be too tight on me.

And this is where my frustrations started.  Perhaps I didn't cut the fabric on the appropriate grain or maybe I should have been more careful when handling my freshly cut pieces of fabric.  Whatever the reason, it seemed like I would cut my pieces to the exact size they needed to be but then they would stretch.  It was a headache.  The little panels I added to the sides of the bodice, I ended up having to make them smaller later on because they stretched.

The waist of the skirt also stretched.  After I sewed together the skirt and the bodice and then tried it on the waist was very loose on my body.  I looked up different ways to add elastic to the waist and ended up making a casing for the elastic like the first tutorial in this blog post.  Rather than measuring my waist and subtracting a certain length I just put the dress on with the elastic threaded through the casing and pulled it to a comfortable tightness.  Then I sewed it together at that point and cut off the extra on the ends.  This very easily solved my loose waist problem.

Originally I wanted to finish the neckline the same way as the tutorial dress, but it didn't turn out the same way.  Perhaps I didn't sew on the fabric strip correctly.  I ended up binding the edge of the neckline (and the arm holes) but for some reason the neckline stretched A LOT while I was doing this.  I couldn't believe how much it gaped open!  I have since learned there are all sorts of techniques to keep knit fabric from stretching (walking foots for your sewing machine, using double needles, etc.).  Sadly, I didn't know any of this and had only bits and pieces of fabric left, so I couldn't cut out a new bodice and didn't really want to take the dress apart for a new one even if I did have enough fabric to cut out a new bodice.

I tried on the dress to see where the extra fabric fell on its own.  I took a break from the dress for the rest of the day to figure out how to solve the problem and because I was really frustrated.  Instead of taking it in and cutting off extra material, I decided to fold up the extra fabric at the back of the neckline and then sewed it together.  Here is my attempt at illustrating what I did.  (Excuse the coffee stain.)

Folding up the back of the dress ended up puckering the back of the sleeves so I folded over the fabric where it was puckering and then hand stitched an invisible stitch along the folds on the outside and inside to have it lay flat.  I sewed it by hand because I didn't want to have an obvious line of stitching interrupting the interesting folds that appeared from folding up the extra fabric.  Luckily I hadn't finished the arm holes yet so I was able to begin and end the binding at the new "seam" on the back which gave it a nice finished look.

A great advantage of knit fabric is that it doesn't fray if you don't hem the edges.  I wanted the neckline and armholes to have a finished look but I left the bottom of the skirt un-hemmed so it would remain light and flowy.

I've been considering dyeing the dress dark purple, but I think I'll leave it the way it is.  The light purple is really soft and feminine, perfect for spring and summer.  I already have plenty of dark colored dress clothes for fall and winter.  This will be my girly dress for the warmer months.  :)


the great embroidery project of 2016

Embroidery is one of those skills I tried to learn as a kid but didn't really have the patience to stick with it.  I vaguely remember taking an embroidery class through our homeschool group sometime before I was in high school.  While I was digging in the bottom of my sewing box trying to find my stash of embroidery floss I came across some practice stitches I did for this class.

Many years later, I now have buckets of patience for complicated crochet and sewing projects.  I love creating things and having something to do.  Unless I'm completely worn out and really need some time to just sit and do nothing, I'm always craving for something to keep my hands busy.  For the past few weeks I've been working on a baby blanket during Sunday Bible Class (I promise I'm paying attention!) and now I have this embroidery project to keep me busy while we enjoy downtime in the evenings.

I've had ideas for an embroidery project bouncing around in the back of my mind for quite a while.  Recently I started recovering the throw pillows that came with our sofa and decided to do some pretty embroidery on one of them.  For a pattern I settled on one of the beautiful illustrations from the coloring book Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.  I was so proud of myself for coming up with such a clever source for a pattern.  But then I got on Facebook and saw that Johannah Basford had shared this beautiful embroidery based on one of her illustrations.

Inky stiches! Love this little Enchanted Forest Fox by Katie from Cottage Garden Threads! They dyed the threads, then embroidered the design. Colour me happy! Jx
Posted by Johanna Basford on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It burst my bubble of pride, but I was also in awe of the delicate stitches.  When I tried to find the image again I came across this beautiful hummingbird embroidery also pulled from the Secret Garden coloring book.

The last stitches are in, the project is complete, and here it is: http://www.needlenthread.com/2015/05/secret-garden-hummingbirds-last-stitches-finished.html
Posted by Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread on Thursday, May 14, 2015

I know my finished project will not be as impressive as these amazing works of art, but I'm still excited to try out embroidery again.

I would have loved to do one of Johanna Basford's intricate circular illustrations, but I knew I needed to start out with something much more simple for my first project.  For this project I copied a page full of flowers and then cut it down so I would have only whole flowers to work with.  Then I taped it to a piece of cardboard, making sure the paper was completely flat, and then taped a piece of tissue paper over the flower paper.

Yep, tissue paper.  When I started gathering supplies for my project, I knew I needed a heat transfer pencil and figured I could just use it on regular paper.  I should have done more research.  When my test scribbles didn't transfer to the fabric I turned to Google and discovered fancy tracing and transfer papers and a billion different ways to transfer embroidery patterns.  I didn't really want to buy a bunch of fancy paper in case I got sick of this project and never wanted to embroider again.  One of the websites I came across suggested using tissue paper so I gave that a shot and it worked!  It took me two evenings of ridiculous tracing, but I finally got it done.  (I'm sure there was probably an easier way I could have accomplished this.)

Next I cut apart the flowers and arranged them on the new pillow cover I had sewn together.  At first I tried to be careful with the heat settings on my iron because I didn't want to scorch the fabric, but the flowers just wouldn't transfer.  I ended up cranking the iron to the silk/wool heat setting and pressing down for thirty seconds on each flower.  I would not recommend this if you're working with delicate fabric, but my material seemed to be pretty sturdy and wasn't affected at all by the high heat.

Now I am happily spending my evenings stitching away at my pretty little flowers!  And I've already finished the first one!

I'm not too sure about the color combinations.  I think the pinks and purple on the petals look nice but maybe the green and yellow isn't quite right.  But the stitching looks pretty nice considering this is the first time I've embroidered anything in 10+ years.  I am planning to do one gigantic blog post when the entire project is done, but until then I'll probably post updates on Facebook and Instagram, so keep an eye out for more pretty little flowers coming your way!  :)


my favorite teas

Back in high school and college I preferred my tea to be drowned in sugar.  After all, I am from the south.  ;-)  Fruity and sweet, that's what thought tea should be.  I spent many years dumping sweetness into my mugs without a care in the world.

But at some point that started to change.  I don't remember when I started to cut down on the sugar I put in my tea (and coffee) but I believe it was for health reasons.  There was A LOT of sugar going into my tea and I knew it wasn't good for me.

Nowadays I drink my tea and coffee completely free of sugar.  (Unless my father-in-law makes me one of his tasty cappuccino concoctions.  They're so delicious!)  Instead of drinking tea for the sweetness I now enjoy this historical beverage for all of the unlimited flavors it comes in.  Something spicy, fruity, or subtle.  The possibiliteas are endless!  ;-)

I am no expert on tea, and I do try to not go overboard with how much I spend on this delightful hobby, but quality is oh so important when it comes to tea.  Quite often you will find tea that smells wonderful and has a flowery title like "Blueberry Bliss".  You excitedly steep a cup and the first sip tells you that the title and fragrance are lying.  No blueberries, no bliss, no flavor.  How disappointing.  All of the teas listed below will not lure you into this tasteless trap.  They are fragrant, tasty, and fantastic.  Everything you could ever want in a tea.

A photo posted by Laura (@redriojas) on

Herman's Boy is a kitchen store/deli/bakery/coffee roastery owned by members of our church.  It has been around since 1979 and let me tell you, their bagels are to die for!  And their signature "bagel dog".  So good!  But it gets even better!  They also sell tea!  Can you tell how excited I am about this?!  Here are the teas I've purchased from Herman's Boy.  (Man, I really want a bagel dog now.)

Wild Cherry Black Tea

Almond Black Tea

Apricot Black Tea

Citron Green Tea

Blueberry Rooibus Tea

The Apricot Black Tea reminds me of the fresh, juicy apricots we bought from a roadside produce stand in California.  The fragrance of the Almond Black Tea is so powerful!  My husband said it reminds him of the almond banket his father usually makes around Christmas.  And lastly, the Blueberry Rooibus is immensely fruity!  This tea was more expensive than the others so I've been using it sparingly.  It's like a mini special occasion every time I steep a cup.  :-)  All of these teas have beautiful flavors to match their beautiful scents.  The Wild Cherry Black Tea and Citron Green Tea are tasty too, but I prefer the flavors of the other ones more.  Sadly I have run out of my apricot tea and the almond tea is nearly gone too.  :-(  I'll need to get some more when my overall store of tea starts depleting.

A photo posted by Laura (@redriojas) on

Not long ago I came across a coupon for $10 of free tea from Adagio.  I had never purchased tea from them before but I wasn't about to pass up free tea!

Lemon Grass Tea

Chocolate Chip Black Tea

The Lemon Grass Tea sounded like it would be refreshing and subtle.  It certainly is, but it also came in a gigantic bag!  I ordered only six ounces and I thought it would come in a little bag the size of the little brown paper bags of tea I buy from Herman's Boy.  Nope.  Biggest bag of tea I have ever seen!  It is good though.  Something subtle to sip in the evenings, but I did end up sending some home in a jar with my best friend when she visited because I didn't think I'd be able to use it all before it starts to go bad.

The Chocolate Chip Black Tea is a different story.  I got to pick out a free sample with my order and thought it would be a fun flavor to try.  After my first sip I immediately wished I had ordered a giant bag of it.  It's so tasty!  I've tried vanilla and chocolate flavored teas before and either the flavors didn't really come through or they just didn't mesh with the other flavors in the tea.  This tea does not have that problem.  It doesn't smack you across the face screaming "CHOCOLATE!!!".  Instead, it's very rounded and subtle.  You taste the chocolate but it's not like cramming a handful of chocolate chips in your mouth that you've snuck from the pantry.  This tea is definitely going on my list of teas to buy again.

A photo posted by Laura (@redriojas) on

For our wedding we wanted to have an "afternoon tea" kind of reception.  I think this is what really ignited my hobby of tea.  After doing some research we decided to use The Republic of Tea.  We ordered six different kinds of tea (two herbal, two black, and two green) and had hot water available so people could steep their own little cups of tea.  We also had iced tea and water available.  We were so thrilled with how everything turned out!  It was a lovely afternoon tea party.  I have also been entranced by macarons ever since our reception.  I really want to try making them some day.

Here is a list of what I have now/some of what we ordered and that I really enjoyed.

Ginger Peach Rooibos Tea

Lucky Irish Breakfast Tea

Pumpkin Ginger Black Tea - I could not find this tea on their website, perhaps it is seasonal or discontinued, but they do have a Pumpkin Spice Black Tea that should be available this fall.

Decaf Strawberry Cherry Black Tea - Apparently this tea is no longer available.  Its scent reminds me of kool-aid.  This is the only tea to which I add a little bit of sugar.

Downton Abbey English Rose Tea

Orange Ginger Mint Herbal Tea

Blackberry Sage Black Tea

The Orange Ginger Mint and Blackberry Sage teas were my favorite out of what we ordered for our reception.  I loved how the spicy citrus flavor paired so well with the cooling mint.  My mother-in-law used the Blackberry Sage Black Tea to make delicious iced tea for our reception.  The sage and blackberry go so well together yet it's hard to describe the exact qualities of the subtle flavor.  The Downton Abbey English Rose tea is another one of my favorites.  Such a beautiful fruity flavor!  In truth I would love to try every single Downton Abbey tea, but especially the Crawley Sisters blend.  A tea made of strawberries and chocolate sounds so interesting!

There you have it!  A very lengthy description that is really just the tip of the iceberg.  I'm always on the look out for new teas to try.  Some of them I really like while others don't quite hit the nail on the head.  For instance, I have two different versions of pumpkin spice tea right now.  Pumpkin Spice Chai from Twinnings and Pumpkin Spice Rooibos from Trader Joe's.  (One I bought on clearance and the other was given to me.)  I try to not let them steep too long because the flavor can be VERY overpowering, especially the Twinnings.  Usually I'll cut the Twinnings with a bit of milk, kind of turn it into a latte to settle down the spicyness.

I like to keep some straight peppermint tea on hand for when I'm stuffed up.  I currently have Pure Peppermint from Twinnings.  Also for medicinal purposes, I have Throat Coat Lemon Echinacea from Traditional Medicinals.  One time I had the worse stuffy head, drainage, and sore throat for over a week.  About halfway through this agony I desperately researched what tea could help soothe sore throats and settled on Throat Coat.  I'm not going to say that it cured my sore throat, but it did give me some relief and I could finally swallow without feeling like my throat was lined with sandpaper.  Between the decongestants I was slamming down, drinking peppermint and Throat Coat teas, and getting lots of rest, I finally started to feel better.

Tea can be both tasty and practical!  :)


living in small spaces

I've never really given much thought to the size of houses.  I always assumed that some people prefer larger abodes and others like smaller ones.  That's all there is to it.  Right?

We recently watched a documentary about tiny houses.  These structures are typically smaller than 400 square feet and quite often built on trailers so they can be towed around like a camper.  While I think I would have a difficult time living in such a small space, I can't help but admire the ingenuity and creativity that go into creating these lovely little houses.

Tiny House Giant Journey in the Petrified Forest

Tiny House Blog is a fun place to go if you want to learn more about tiny houses.  I love following their Instagram which is full of beautiful pictures.

Even though I think it would be a struggle for my husband and I to live in a tiny house (especially after we have kids), the fact that there are people who live perfectly happy lives in these tiny spaces really struck a chord with me.  Our current apartment is about 970 square feet which is plenty of space for the two of us.  We would like to buy a house in the country and have a little more of our own space after living in a 4-plex, but we aren't shopping for a mansion.

The Atlas tiny house/RV hybrid.

Numbers don't mean a whole lot to me.  If you tell me a space is such-and-such square feet I can't really comprehend the size of it unless you give me a visual example.  As I looked around the kitchen of a home I was in recently I realized it was about the same size as our apartment kitchen and living room area combined.  One room in this huge house was the same size as half of our apartment.  Yes, there was great counter space and huge beautiful windows, but it blew my mind that so much square footage was taken up by a single room with a single function.

We're not looking for a shoe box of a house, and I would love to have a kitchen with an actual pantry, but I'm a lot more conscious about the space our belongings take up and how much living space we really need.

The Kasl Family Tiny House

I really love this adorable house and I wish it was more in the area where we hope to buy a home.  Sometimes we'll go on Zillow just for fun and marvel at how massive and ridiculous some of the houses are, such as this one (over 8,000 square feet!).  What do people even do with all of that space?

It'll still be more than a year before we can buy a house, so there's not really much point in looking around right now.  But I think it is important to consider how much space we really need in our homes.

Cinder Box MicroDwelling


the easiest and most delicious blueberry sauce/jelly you will ever make!

I don't know what the technical qualifications are that determine if something is a sauce or a jelly, hence the title.  But whatever this concoction is, I can't believe I've only just discovered it!

Imagine the wonderful taste of fresh blueberry cobbler.  What if you could add that mind-blowing flavor to anything you want?  Anything!  That is the sorcery this sauce possesses.  What makes it even better is that you only need two things to achieve this magically fantastic creation:  A little pot and some blueberries.

Handpicked Michigan blueberries are best for this recipe.  ;-)

Put some fresh or frozen blueberries in a little pot and set your burner to low/medium heat.  Your blueberries will get softer as they warm up and start to leak some liquid.  Once they reach this point, start smashing them with a spoon.  Make sure you squish every single little berry!  Now you will want to turn the temperature down a little and stir continuously to make sure your squished berries don't burn.  The liquid will bubble and thicken as you keep stirring and even after you take it off the stove.  If you prefer a thinner sauce/jelly you can add a little water or take it off the heat sooner.

And that's all there is to it!  Warm up the blueberries, squish them, stir them around, and you're done!  Depending on how many blueberries you're using, it can take less than five minutes!

You can strain out the blueberry skins and customize this simple recipe to your liking.  Sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, whatever tickles your fancy.  Or enjoy it just as it is.

This blueberry jelly is divine on top of french toast (along with my husband's homemade maple syrup) and scrumptious as a filling between cake layers.  Next I want to try it warm and fresh on top of vanilla ice cream.  To tide me over until then, I enjoyed it on some simple toast for breakfast.  It was lovely.  :)


Update: naturally curly hair

It's been a while since I've written about curly hair, so I thought I'd give y'all an update.

Since moving to Michigan nearly two years ago I've taken to cutting my hair myself.  My husband helps me with the back.  :)  I haven't found a local stylist I'm comfortable with, so this seemed like the best option.  It was a lot of trial and error at first.  I gave myself triangle head the first time.

September 2014 - Don't give yourself triangle head!  Make sure you add some layers!

Oops!  But after that I started layering my hair which eliminated the triangle and was also a great way to get more curl definition because of how thick and heavy my hair is.

August 2015, reading with our niece Lucia.

The most recent chop was back in November.  My hair was feeling damaged and I was getting aggravated with how long it was.  I think I cut it a bit too short, but it has grown out some since then and I'm much happier now with how it's behaving.

Thanksgiving 2015, right after I cut my hair.  With our adorable niece Lucy.  :)

My curls tend to be really loopy and big in diameter, almost more like waves than loose curls.  Because of their shape, when my hair is short it tends to end up more in messy waves rather than curls, I think because there is less hair for the curls to use to take their shape.  That's my theory anyways.  :)  I'm ok with my hair falling into messy waves rather than curls.  It's still better than the frizzy poofball I used to have.

The shorter hairstyle has led to a change in my hair routine.  I still follow the three step method from DevaCurl and use their products (the one thing I splurge on for myself), but I dry my hair differently now.

Plopping my hair in a t-shirt or microfiber towel worked great when my hair was long because there was so much of it and it held so much moisture.  I would leave it in the towel for 5-10 minutes and then diffuse on the lowest heat and air settings for 15-20 minutes.

With shorter hair, I scrunch the extra water out of my hair with a microfiber towel after applying gel (sometimes I scrunch in more gel after using the microfiber towel) and then I tilt my head to the right, diffuse for five minutes, tilt my head to the left, and diffuse for five more minutes.  I always use the lowest heat and air settings otherwise my hair gets really frizzy.

My drying time is much shorter now and I don't even have to use clips for added volume at my scalp because changing directions while diffusing does that for me.  My hair isn't completely dry after the ten minutes, but I have given it a head start for air drying.  If I were to keeping using the diffuser until my hair was completely dry then it would turn out frizzy and my curls wouldn't have any shape to them at all.

February 2016 - Still have a bit of a gel cast in these photos, but here is how my hair curls/falls in waves when it is short.

I've started switching between No-Poo and Low-Poo depending on if my hair feels like it has a lot of product buildup.  This has helped immensely in keeping my hair from feeling weighed down.  Occasionally I'll also do a rinse with apple cider vinegar if my hair is feeling really dirty.

Second day hair is still an issue for me.  I switched to DevaCurl's Ultra Defining Gel and that has given me a better chance at still having curls the day after I wash and style, but most of the time my hair is flat the next morning.  I think that's just how my hair is and there isn't anything I can do to change it.  A silk pillowcase eliminates frizz, but I can't find anything else that works to preserve my curls overnight.

Figuring out hairstyles for my short second day hair has been a challenge, but that's a topic for another post.  ;-)


two simple tips to help you combat clutter

Stuff.  It's everywhere.  All over the place.  It cannot be contained!!

Or can it?  Rather than trying to strategically organize your possessions, try out these precautionary measures before you start printing out labels and stuffing things in boxes, never to be seen again.

Tip #1:
Do not buy things you don't need.
Let's go over that again.
Do not buy things you don't need!!
Radical, I know, but still extremely important.
Consider all of things you buy in a week.  Clothes, toys, kitchen gadgets, books, movies, snacks, and whatever else.
How many of these things do you actually need?  Think of what you already have at home.  Do you really need to buy that toy for your child?  Is that cheap t-shirt really necessary?
If your main justification for buying something is "Because it's on sale!" then step away.  Save the money you would spend on that clearance item and put it towards something of better quality that you will actually need down the road.
Not only will this help save your home from being filled with frivolous things, but you will also save quite a bit of money!
Birthday gifts, a new dress for a special occasion, those kind of occasional purchases are fine because of the key word "occasional."  To give yourself a little wiggle room while still reducing the amount of stuff you bring into your home, budget yourself a bit of "fun money" every month to spend on non-necessities.

Tip #2:
Get rid of the things you own that you don't need.
Consider the following scenario:
You go to organize one of your closets.  Everything is pulled out, organized in cute little tubs with labels, and squeezed back into the closet.  Not long afterwards you are frustrated with how full the closet is so you reorganize it again.  And again.  And again.
What is the problem?  You haven't evaluated what you are organizing and pitched what you don't need.  Not long ago I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and this simple thought is the backbone of Marie Kondo's organizing method.  It really makes quite a lot of sense.  Why are you organizing what you should be getting rid of?  Pitching first and organizing later will also free up a lot more space for storing the possessions you keep.  Do you really need to own twelve spatulas when you use only three of them on a regular basis?  Do you have a cabinet full of board games that are hardly touched?

Bonus Tips!!

Keep your belongings contained where they are stored.
Bins are a wonderful storage tool.  You can use a stack of them to store away Christmas decorations or to simply keep your pantry items from spilling all over your shelves.

While our kitchen is a very nice size for an apartment, it does not have a pantry.  We've made a pantry out of a small closet in our living room.

Maximize your storage space.
Rather than storing your folded clothes flat in your drawers, keep them upright.  Not only will this eliminate having to look through stacks of clothes but it will also free up tons of space.  I was very surprised at how effective this method was for even my sock drawer.  It turned out I had a lot more pairs of white socks than I thought I did.  I never saw them because they were buried in the bottom of my haphazard drawer.

I didn't know I had so many socks until I reorganized them!

Try out the ten item wardrobe.
Don't let the wording scare you.  You're not going to wear just ten pieces of clothing for the rest of your life.  (And you can increase the ten items to fifteen or even twenty if that better fits your lifestyle.)  The ten items are staple pieces such as good quality pants, jackets, blouses, skirts, and dresses.  To those ten items you can add any number of t-shirts, sweaters, scarves, tights, and other accessories.  One of the advantages of the ten item wardrobe is that you spend your money on long lasting quality pieces that you can pair with other cheaper staples rather than having a closet stuffed with cheap clothing that will wear out quickly.  Another advantage is that you will have far less clothing to store in your closets and drawers, which makes picking out an outfit so much easier.  To learn more about the ten item wardrobe, read Lessons From Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott.


crocheted rag rug pouf

Behold the ottoman, one of the cutest pieces of furniture you could ever own!

Someday I will have one nestled in our living room, acting as a secret place of storage and a fun place to sit.  Because we must be practical with our furniture dreams.  ;-)  The other night I joked about having an ottoman empire in our living room.  My husband rolled his eyes at my corniness.

A close cousin of the ottoman is the pouf.

With the possibility of being squishier than a traditional ottoman, this sophisticated beanbag can offer the comfort of a pillow but still has the function of an ottoman.  The only problem I saw with poufs was the lack of practicality.  It's hard to justify buying a frivolous piece of furniture if it doesn't possess some multipurpose qualities. 

Recently I came across this pattern for a crocheted pouf that you can stuff with blankets.  My problem was solved!  There are several different things you can use to stuff a pouf, but I didn't really want to buy a whole bunch of something just to stuff in a fun little seat.  That would be much too expensive.  This blanket stuffing idea was perfect!  It was already a struggle to not have bedding fall out of our hall closet every time I needed to change the sheets.

I've been dying to crochet with fabric again ever since I made this rug last year.  Crocheting with fabric is really fun and you can see progress in your projects a lot faster since the stitches are so big.  Unlike my rug project, I actually kept track of what I did this time and wrote down a pattern for y'all!  :)  You can change things around however you like.  My fabric strips were about 1 1/2 inches wide and I have no idea what size my giant crochet hook is.  It was the biggest one I could find at Hobby Lobby.  Using a safety pin to keep track of the starting point for your rounds is very handy and will help you make your increases correctly.  Your pouf will have a hexagon shape to it as you start but it will round out later on.

Crocheted Rag Rug Pouf

Row 1.  6 SC in Magic Ring
Row 2.  2 SC in each stitch around
Row 3.  (1 SC in next stitch, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 4.  (1 SC in next two stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 5.  (1 SC in next three stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 6.  (1 SC in next four stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 7.  (1 SC in next five stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 8.  (1 SC in next six stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 9.  (1 SC in next seven stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 10.  (1 SC in next eight stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 11.  (1 SC in next nine stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 12.  (1 SC in next ten stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around
Row 13.  (1 SC in next eleven stitches, 2 SC in next stitch) repeat around

*You can continue increasing if you want your pouf to be bigger around or can you stop increasing earlier on if you want it to be smaller.*

From here I did 1 SC in each stitch around for the next 22 rows.  This determines how tall your pouf will be.  However, you will lose a bit of height when you gather up the bottom after it is stuffed, so you may want to add more rows than you think you'll need.  Go ahead and stuff it and gather up the bottom without fastening off when you think it's tall enough to see if you need to add some more rows.

Once your pouf is tall enough use some twine or yarn (I found some sturdy ribbon) and weave it through the stitches of your last row.  You don't need to thread it through every single stitch.  I put it through every three or four stitches and that worked just fine.  No one is going to see the bottom of the pouf and you just need to be able to pull it tightly like a drawstring.

My pouf ended up measuring about 14 inches tall, 57 inches around, and I was able to fit two big quilts inside.  (It actually feels like it could take a bit more stuffing.)  Once you have filled your pouf with blankets (or even pillows!) tighten your drawstring, tie it off with a bow, and tuck the extra string into your pouf.  

I am really thrilled with how my fun project turned out and we've been happily using it as a footstool while lounging on the couch.  My husband even begrudgingly admitted that he thought it was cute.  He can be a bit of a curmudgeon sometimes like his father.  ;-)